Saturday July 26 2014

Defence to carry Cranes

By Allan ssekamatte

Soccer purists have a natural inclination to be mesmerized by high-scoring teams. Generally, the higher the profile of a game, the likelier that soccer aficionados will be more impressed by a goals avalanche. We were all in awe when Germany put seven past Brazil in the record world champions’ worst defeat in their cherished football history. Barcelona’s vintage displays in 6-2 and 5-0 victories over rivals Real Madrid also linger in the memory for similar reasons. But since football is both about defense and attack, fans must learn to appreciate when a team delivers a defensive master-class. Is it just me who was equally enthralled by the manner of Chelsea’s 2-0 victories away to Manchester City and Liverpool last season, or Atletico Madrid’s shackling of Lionel Messi for seven consecutive games? Surely not.
Which brings us to our beloved Cranes. We needn’t fret when the national football team grinds out 1-0 or 0-0 results if that is what we need. For a better part of the last decade, goals have been hard to come by especially when we are playing in African Nations Cup or World Cup qualifiers.
Disregard the hockey scores we normally post against rank outsiders Djibouti, Burundi and Somalia, and you will have to stretch your mind to recall a high scoring Cranes performance. While seeking a long term solution to our dearth of goals, like a parent whose beloved child is academically limited but good at drama and using his/her hands, we must learn to appreciate our principal strength – dogged defending.
Having beaten Mauritania 2-0 in the first leg of the 2015 African Nations Cup preliminary round qualifier, we can now count on defense to deliver us into the group stages. They say, if it ain’t broken don’t try to fix it, and I don’t see any reason for coach Milutin Sredojevich to tamper with the back five that did so well at Namboole last Saturday. Cranes’ two most senior players – keeper Denis Onyango and captain Andy Mwesigwa rolled back the years to put in their most assured performances in years. They will have to lead by from the front in Nouakchott again if we are to keep the clean sheet we need to join Ghana, Togo and Guinea in the group stages.
Changes will however be required in midfield to offer extra protection to the back four. Geoffrey Baba Kizito was the only recognized ball winner in the home tie. He will need support from a recognized battler in the mould of Hassan Wasswa, if he can get himself fit.
After a series of stellar displays in a bit-part, stand-in role, Brian Majwega ought to be promoted into a starting position at Kizito Luwaga’s expense. The Portugal based wide man failed to thrive as an inverted winger whereas Majwega added attacking impetus and great on-pitch awareness when he came on, scoring one and helping creating another for the Cranes. That Majwega can play as a left-back is an added advantage is a situation when keeping a clean sheet is all we need. My four man midfield, playing in a 4-4-1-1 formation would thus have teenager Farouk Miya who justified his first competitive cap with maturity that belied his years, Mudde, Baba and Majwega.
Whatever your opinions about him, Geoffrey Massa remains our main guarantor of goals. Whilst we would prefer that they come in droves, four goals in the last five internationals prove the seasoned striker is benefiting from his move to Pretoria University.
Overall, we have one foot in the group stages but the Cranes must not take their eyes off the ball. Cranes Na Mutima!